Amway uses broad mix of aircraft to develop opportunities and further company growth

Multilevel marketing giant keeps its business personal using fleet of large-cabin Gulfstreams, Bombardier Challenger 300s, Cessna Citation CJ3s and Sikorsky S76.

Amway Chairman Steve Van Andel (L) and Aviation Dir Rick Fiddler display the Alber-Rowley Trophy presented to Amway by Gulfstream in recognition of its achievement in airlifting 1163 distributors from GRR to Las Vegas NV for a 50th-anniversary celebration on May 25, 2009. During a combined 38 flights all Gulfstream aircraft performed with 100% dispatch reliability.

Our business would be impossible without a computer, and it’s probably impossible to run it without an airplane.” Corporate aviation is “a way of getting the job done more efficiently.

But you’ve got to be willing to hire and pay good people to get that job done. You can’t go on the cheap—you’ve got to do it right and then you’ll have the benefit.” Where Amway is concerned, says DeVos, “We want to recognize achievement. That’s how we do it, by being there in person to tell them how proud we are of them.

“I believe in having good equipment. If you’re going to fly, have the best. And it not only takes good airplanes—it takes great pilots and a great flight department. And the guy who runs it—Rick Fiddler—does a marvelous job.”

Flight department structure

Amway’s flight department is housed in 3 hangars on the west side of GRR. It has its own 45,000-gallon in-ground fuel farm, plus 2 fuel trucks—one 10,000-gal and one 7000 gal. Last year Amway pumped 1.3 million gallons at GRR and another million on the road.

Overseeing all flight department operations is Amway Aviation Dir Rick Fiddler. A 16,000-hr pilot (7000 of them fixed-wing), he flies the GV, G550 and S76. Almost inevitably, though, running such a large, busy flight department—average utilization runs at 600–700 hrs a year per aircraft—means that these days he actually flies only around 100 hrs a year.

Fiddler grew up on a farm in northern Michigan, where his father taught him to fly in a Piper PA22 Tri-Pacer when he was 15. “My father set the bug in me for aviation,” says Fiddler. Before joining Amway he spent 6 years flying a Hughes 269 helicopter for the City of Lansing (MI) Police Dept.

Chief Pilots Larry Luciani (L) and Patrick Rollins with a G400 and recently delivered Challenger 300. Luciani has been with Amway for 6 years and flies the GV and Citation CJ3. Rollins began his flying career with the USN and currently flies the S76 and Challenger 300.

He started working for Amway in Dec 1982, was promoted to chief pilot in 1996 and became aviation director in 2002. Reporting to Fiddler are 31 pilots and 13 mechanics (plus the chief of maintenance and 5 support staff), 7 flight attendants and 3 schedulers.

Amway has 2 chief pilots—Patrick Rollins and Larry Luciani. Fiddler reports that the flight department has a safety management system (SMS) in place, and says that the department has also been working toward IS-BAO certification, which should be awarded by early 2010.

As aviation director, Fiddler is responsible for all hiring. But in fact turnover is almost unknown, and some pilots have been with Amway for 30 years or more. On the rare occasions when he does look for pilots, Fiddler seeks applicants with, at the very least, an ATP plus 3000 hrs, a college degree and a jet type rating.

The biggest thing of all, he says, is the “right attitude”—that intangible quality that lets team members work well together. Compensation is at or above ind­ustry average, says Fiddler. And, he says, “Am­way is really good to us. When we’re flying they treat us like we’re family.”

For its international operations Amway acquired 2 Gulfstream Vs in 2003, followed by 3 G400s in 2004 and a G550 in 2005. A 2nd G550 is due to join the fleet in 2Q2010. All 6 Gulfstreams have HUD/EVS. Amway uses its Challenger 300s and CJ3s mostly for domestic trips.

The Citation CJ3s were added in 2006 and Aug 2009, while the recently acquired Challenger 300s replace 2 Hawker 800s which served Amway faithfully for more than 20 years. On average, 42% of Amway’s flying is international, says Fiddler.

This is reflective of the fact that 92% of company business is international. Although the G400s are used occasionally on overseas trips, most employ the GVs and G550. Fiddler recounts a GV trip in Jan 2009 which took in 5 cities in 6 days to meet the CEO’s schedule.

The routing—GRR–FAI (Fairbanks AK) (fuel stop)–KIX (Osaka, Japan)– BKK (Bangkok, Thailand)–BNE (Brisbane QLD, Australia)–SYD (Sydney NSW, Australia)–AKL (Auckland, New Zealand)–HNL (Honolulu, Oahu HI) (fuel stop)– GRR—would have requir­ed an estimated 16 days to fly commercial.

In recent years China has become one of Amway’s biggest markets, explains Fiddler, albeit with a different business model from the US original. (In China distributors actually own stores from which they sell Amway merchandise.) And one advantage of having a G550 is the ability to fly nonstop PEK (Beijing, China)–GRR in 12.5 hrs.

Shuttle ops

A twice-weekly company shuttle links GRR with Amway’s Nutrilite operation in California. Depending on load, the company uses either a GIV or a Challenger 300. The shuttle aircraft leaves GRR on Monday for SNA (Santa Ana CA). Having dropped its passengers, the aircraft picks up the eastbound pax and departs SNA for GRR.

(L–R) S76 Senior Captains Andy Lawrence, Mel Johnston and Bill Westfall. Both Lawrence and Johnston previously flew helicopters for the City of Lansing PD and the National Guard. Westfall is a former USAF pilot who has spent the past 33 years flying for Amway.

A similar operation takes place on Thursdays, picking up the original group from SNA before making a quickturn departure. Amway also operates a monthly shuttle in support of its Amway Canada subsidiary in Ontario.

This goes in and out of YXU (London ON, Canada) on the same day.

Pilot profiles

Chief Pilot Patrick Rollins has been with Amway for 5 years. A former Flight Options pilot with US Navy experience, he has 4200 hrs TT (including 2100 hrs fixed-wing).

Rollins is a Challenger 300 and S76 pilot. Currently he flies around 150 hrs a year. Chief Pilot Larry Luciani has been with Amway for 6 years after flying a Falcon 2000 and a 900EX for corporate operator Steelcase for 14.5 years.

His 16,000 hrs TT are all fixed-wing. As chief pilots, Luciani and Rollins optimize daily schedules, matching aircraft and crews, and ensure training currency and manual compliance. Today, Luciani flies the GV and the Citation CJ3. Like Rollins, he flies around 150 hrs a year.


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